Monday, August 29, 2005

Book Review - "What Saint Paul Really Said"

Subtitled: "Was Saul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?"
N. T. Wright published this book in 1997. This book is a great book and is quite readable.

Wright takes the phrase "the righteousness of God" to mean God's own righteousness rather than a forensic, imputed righteousness that man gets from God. Wright demonstrates that this phrase is commonly misunderstood.

The Lectionary and the death penalty

The Lectionary text for last week and the Lectionary text for this week have a large gap of the first verses of Romans 13.

That section of Scripture skips the text which speaks of the government's use of the sword as a messenger of God. These verses are a clearly support for the Death Penalty. I wonder why they are skipped in the Lectionary?

Is there a bias in the Lectionary against these kinds of passages?

Lectionary text for Sept 4, 2005

Lectionary text Romans 13:8-14
Rom 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
Rom 13:9 For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."
Rom 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Rom 13:11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.
Rom 13:12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Rom 13:13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.
Rom 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The problem with Romans 12:9-21

Usually the problem with a text is getting to where we can understand the text.

That's not the case with Romans 12:9-21. I think that we understand it just fine.

Our problem is not understanding the text, it is doing the text.

Treating each other as Christ would have us treat each other is a monumental task. And most of us do not feel up to the task.

Often it's not so important what we do, so much as how we do it. Are we working at love?

Burning coals

I just don't buy it.

One common argument is given that the burning coals poured on someone's head were actually a good thing. Allegedly the people at that time carried coal baskets on their heads. Putting burning coals into their basket was to keep them warm.

I don't buy it.

How can this be anything other than what it says? Doing this shames your enemy and vindicates you when you do this. Repentance is always in mind with God. Suppose though that your enemy remains your enemy after you have responded with good. When your enemy is judged, you were not part of the problem. You have not participate in the evil, but have stepped above it. The judgment of God is then clearly demonstrated.

The Sanders Revolution

Our Debt to E. P. Sanders
Wright's book, What Saint Paul Really Said points out the debt that we owe to E. P. Sanders. The central point of Sanders was that "Judaism in Paul's day was not, as has regularly been supposed, a religion of legalistic works-righteousness." (pp 18-19).

This is the key point in properly reading the writings of the Apostle Paul. As Wright points out, Paul has been read incorrectly at least since the time of Luther. Wright correctly expands on the themes started by Sanders and in doing so it is important to acknowledge the debt to Sanders. Wright correctly does this in his book.

Why this change? Now, we have a lot more information about first century Judaism than was available at the time of the Reformation. Discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls have shed additional light on the beliefs of the first century. In this book, Wright puts Paul into his historical context as best as can be done from this distance.

What this means is that nearly all of the commentators on the book of Romans are completely wrong in their central core points about the book. If Paul is not reacting to a works-righteousness religion of his day, then what is he reacting to?

Lectionary Text Romans 12:9-21

Let love be without hypocrisy.
Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly Do not be wise in your own estimation.
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone Respect what is right in the sight of all men.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written,
"VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,"
says the Lord.
"BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD."
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

N. T. Wright's writings

The unofficial N. T. Wright page has quite a few of Dr. Wright's writings and some audio files as well.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Summary of the NPP Five Points

These are directly from N. T. Wright's paper New Perspectives in Paul.

Stating the five points in the positive.
  1. When Paul refers to ‘the gospel’, he is to the proclamation that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth has been raised from the dead and thereby demonstrated to be both Israel’s Messiah and the world’s true Lord.
  2. Paul always uses the phrase ‘the righteousness of God’, (dikaiosune theou), to denote the righteousness of God himself.
  3. Paul affirms that God’s final judgment will be in accordance with the entirety of a life led - in accordance, in other words, with works.
  4. For Paul, ‘justification’ is something that follows on from the ‘call’ through which a sinner is summoned to turn from idols and serve the living God, to turn from sin and follow Christ, to turn from death and believe in the God who raised Jesus from the dead.
  5. Paul uses ‘vindication’ language, i.e. the dikaioo word-group, when he is describing the verdict which God pronounces consequent upon that event.
Restating each of the five in the negative.
  1. When Paul refers to ‘the gospel’, he is not referring to a system of salvation, though of course the gospel implies and contains this, nor even to the good news that there now is a way of salvation open to all.
  2. Paul is not using the phrase ‘the righteousness of God’, (dikaiosune theou) to denote the status which God’s people have from him or in his presence.
  3. The righteousness of the law has been mistreated as a hypothetical position which Paul then undermines by showing that nobody can actually achieve it.
  4. To ‘justify’ does not mean to ‘become a Christian’.
  5. Justification is not conversion itself nor is it the establishment of a ‘relationship’ between a person and God.

The NPP and Rom 10:6-7

Romans 10:6-7 are admittedly tough verses. Testing them against the standard Reformed views of these passage is quite informative. Something is seriously wrong with the standard Reformed views of this passage.

The problem posed by these passage is not the passage in and of itself, but in the passage that they are quotes from. They are taken from Deut 30:13-14. The problem comes in when Deut 30 is read for what it says on it's own. When Deut 30 is read it clearly poses a challenge to the Lutheran and Reformed readings in Romans. These traditional readings of Romans tease out a wider divide between Law and Gospel than this verse will allow.

Why? Because the Deut 30:11-14 passage has a view of the Law that is widely at variance with the traditional Protestant (and Catholic) reading of the text. Deut says that the Law is not impossible to follow, and can, in fact, be followed.

The NASB with reference notes (sitting on the desk next to me) solves this problem in an odd way. It indents the quotes which show they are quotes and then fails to provide a cross-reference for their source.

Most, if not all of the commentators end up saying that Paul is making this up. Moses only supported Law and Paul is supporting Gospel. So then, Paul is quoting Moses as a support but without any basis at all. This makes mincemeat of Paul's argument.

This passage, run through the traditional Reformed paradigm breaks the paradigm. What can be put in it's place? N. T. Wright and the NPP have an answer which makes sense of this (and many other passages on the Law). But, that's to be seen in another post...

Lectionary Text - Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

This week's Lectionary Text is Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32:
Rom 11:1 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
Rom 11:2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew
Rom 11:29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
Rom 11:30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience,
Rom 11:31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.
Rom 11:32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

The Lectionary

The Lectionary is a weekly selection of Biblical texts. Two of the texts are taken from the Old Testament and two come out of the New Testament. One of the Old Testament texts is from the Psalms. One of the New Testament texts is taken from the Gospels and the other text is taken from the Epistles.

The Lectionary texts are widely used in worship services in a variety of Christian worship services. The Lectionary texts cycle through on a three year rotation. These texts are often read and preached from on any given Sunday.

In theory, using the Lectionary texts allows a preacher to avoid pet subjects. There are possibilities for doing series going through a particular book of the Bible. For instance, the Epistle readings for this summer go through much of the book of Romans. Next summer the Old Testament series will go through the life of King David. This way the preacher can preach a series with predefined texts. Not all verses in a given book are selected. For instance, the Lectionary text for this week is Rom 9:1-5 and the rest of Rom 9 is not used.

Having the texts known ahead of time helps worship committees plan services in advance. Local area ministerial associations may provide a reference for local Lectionary study groups. In these groups, preachers get together and discuss the texts that they will be preaching on that Sunday. This allows for the ideas of others to help in forming Sunday morning messages. There are also a number of Lectionary websites and on-line study materials. Often these archive the materials over multiple Lectionary cycles. These are good sources for sermon illustrations and children's sermons as well.

From time to time, this blog will have Lectionary study notes posted - most often for past weeks. I make no promise to keep them current for the given week, but if there is enough interest and feedback to the BLOG then I will consider doing that.

Dr. N. T. Wright - Incredible guy!

It may be too early to say for sure but it seems quite possible to me that N. T. Wright may be the next Martin Luther.

Luther shot across the bow of the church with his understanding of justification found in his reading of Romans.

Wright is reading Romans with fresh eyes in our day. He presents a view of justification that is not a traditional Protestant reading, nor a traditional Catholic reading.

Wright has a significant amount of work with the question of what Paul means by certain phrases in the Book of Romans. These words/phrases include "The Law", "justification" and "righteousness of God". Wright's conclusions are significant for the church's understanding of Romans and Galatians. This corrective is already sending shockwaves through the Reformed community which is committed to reading Romans through the lenses of John Calvin. Wright sends waves through the Lutheran community who reads Romans in a "Lutheran" way.

Dr. Wright is an impressive scholar. If you have seen the recent specials on National Geographic channel, Biography channel A&E and other channels you have seen him single handedly take on the liberal scholars of the Jesus seminar.

Let me add a personal note. I had the pleasure of meeting NT Wright in April 2001. He was Canon at Westminster at that time. He preached the Evensong service to a nearly empty congregation made up mostly of tourists. It was the week after Easter and Wright delivered the best sermon on the resurrection of Jesus that I have ever heard. That wasn't all that impressed me, though. I was most impressed that Dr. Wright took the time to talk with me when I met him in the line after the service. He took about 10 minutes in fact. He asked me about my background and why I had come to see him in London (all the way from California). At the end, he took time to lay hands on me and pray for my future ministry.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Test cases and proof texts

Test cases are almost the reverse of proof texts.

A test case is a passage that is run through a paradigm to see if the paradigm can work with the test cases.

A set of proof tests is used to construct a paradigm. Theological systems are paradigms.

My last BLOG entry consisted of one such test case run against a paradigm. The paradigm examined was that of the view of Dispensationalism and the Law. This paradigm which is constructed from a set of proof texts states that the only commandments from the Law which have continuing force are those which are repeated in the New Testament. The proof texts include the fact that Christ repeated most of the ten commandments in his conversation with the Rich Young Man. Christ did not repeat the Sabbath commandment. Thus, the Dispensational view is that the ten commandments minus the Sabbath commandment have some continuing force. Exactly what that force is would be a contour within that view.

The standard Reformed position places a much higher view on the Law. Of the Protestant traditions, these are most likely to see the Law with some continuing force.

The Lutheran view is both much higher and much lower at the same time. The Law continues in force but the purpose of the Law is to convict of sin.

In my example, the Dispensational paradigm failed to deal with the Old Testament prohibition against beastiality. It is only mentioned in Levitcus and neither Paul nor Christ deal with the question.

The problem with any paradigm is that it is inherently a selection of some subset of the texts. The real test is how well the excluded passages deal with this paradigm.

In a future BLOG I will start testing some of the claims of N. T. Wright and the NPP with this methodology. The methodology is to isolate the paradigm and then run signficant proof texts against the paradigm.

Christians and the Law

I have been a Christian for a over 25 years and have struggled in one way or another with one question above all other questions during my years.

The question centers around the relationship of the Christian and the Law. Where the problem comes in is with the seemingly irreconcilable passages where Christ and Paul speak both against and for the Law, almost in the same breath. These are beyond the scope of this paper to address.

I have had a number of experiences which shaped this understanding. The initial experience is one that I barely remember due to my age at the time. I was raised in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. In the LCMS, there is a strong emphasis on the distinction between Law and Gospel. This is exemplified by the book by Walther on the subject. Although I was confirmed in the Lutheran Church, I don't remember much of this experience since I was not a Christian at the time. My last attendance at the Lutheran church was my confirmation. By the time I was confirmed, I was a committed atheist.

My next experience was with Calvary Chapel. Although I did not know it at the time, Calvary Chapel was a heavily Dispensationalist sect. For folks in this way of thinking, the Law has little if anything to do with Christians. Eventually, I shifted to the Vineyard with a wider view of the Second Coming - more in the Historical Premillenial vein, I still had little change in view of the relationship of the Christian and the Law.

To sum up this view, the only parts of the Law that are still valid are the ones that are explicitly mentioned in the New Testament as valid by Jesus and/or the Apostles. A test case for this is the sin of beastiality. Neither Christ, nor the Apostles, nor anywhere in the New Testament is there an explicit condemnation of beastiality. Thus, in this viewpoint it is no longer a valid law. It is clear that this test case breaks this paradigm.

About 1991 or 1992 I got connected up with some Messianic Christians at Temple Beth Yeshua in Southern California. Their view of the Law seemed to make more sense to me than the Calvary Chapel view, although I now see that their view was also deficient. When asked about their view, they said that Jewish Christians are to obey the Law, including kosher laws but that non-Jewish Christians are not bound to follow the Law. It may have been mostly for apologetic purposes in their own Jewish communities that they kept more continuity, but it was also apparent that they struggled with the question themselves. Interestingly, in the movement I saw what could best be described as the conversion of Gentile Christians into Jewish Christians. One man even legally changed his name from Charles to Levi. I grew disillusioned with the radical Dispensationalism of the Messianic Christians and eventually left the synagogue. Their views on Israel and their refusal to even mouth the term "church" left me convinced that my children would be raised in a subsect of a subsect of a subsect if I stayed on.

Next in my journey I ran into the Reconstructionists. I was introduced to them by Bob and Gretchen Passantino who were interestingly enough, LCMS-style Lutherans. I was initially attracted to the Reconstructionists by their refutations of Dispensationalism. They had their fingers on the pulse of all of the things that I saw that were wrong with Dispensationalism. In particular, the book "Last Days Madness" by Gary DeMar was a major part of killing off Dispensational thinking in my mind.

The Reconstructionists are typically Reformed Presbyterians. The Reconstructionists also were five point Calvinists, which Bob Passantino (peace be to his memory) preached against with a passion that I have never met before or since.

The Reconstructionists added a nuance to the discussion of the Law that others had not mentioned (or I had missed). They pointed out that the Law consisted of three parts; ceremonial, moral and civil.

Ceremonial laws are those that have to due with the temple practices but may also include such things are kosher law. There are some Reconstructionists that even challenge that point and hold to kosher law.

Moral laws are things that do not change and are rooted in the character of God. Do not bear false witness, is one such example. Prohibitions against beastiality and homosexuality fit in here as well.

Civil laws are the way that society is organized. The basic question asked by Reconstructionists is "By What Standard?". In other words, if the law of the country is not based on God's Word, in particular the Old Testament, then what is it based on? For surely there will be some basis, either God's Word or man's.

Sorting out whether a particular law is in this category or one of the other categories can be a challenge although it is easier than you may initially suspect. Rushdooney's impressive book "The Institutes of Biblical Law" is once such attempt.

This allows for a solution to the initial dilemma of how there could be passages for and against the Law. Some passages state that that Law will never pass away. Others say that it is quickly passing away. The cermonial law was based largely on temple worship. With the destruction in 70 AD of the temple, this law was gone. The book of Hebrews is particularly compelling in this regard. The moral law of God can never change being based in the character of God. In that sense it is a mirror of the personality of God.

Their treatment of the civil law is the tripping point for those who reject Reconstructionism. However, the basic question has yet to be adequately answered by the other since "By Which Standard?". The standard answer of "if it is repeated in the NT" has proven inadequate with test case after test case.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Sermon Manuscript for Romans 10:5-15

Romans 10:5-15

For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness, which is based on law, shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows:

"DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, 'WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?'

(that is, to bring Christ down),

or

'WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?'

(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)." But what does it say?

"THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"

--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says,

"WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for

"WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?
And how will they hear without a preacher?
How will they preach unless they are sent?
Just as it is written,

"HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!"

My High School algebra teacher, Mrs. Chen was a great teacher. She was one of the smartest people I have ever met, but, we could get her to go off the subject matter with a question. She could go on for hours about leaving communist China when it fell. She was a young woman and moved to Taiwan. One day, Mrs. Chen passed out a test and told the students in the room to read the instructions and then take the test. She told the students in the class to put their tests on her desk when they had finished. The test was fairly long and had a lot of algebra problems on it. It seemed strange since some students finished it very quickly - within a minute or so. Most of the class was working on the test for the whole time period. There were way too many problems to get them all done in the time allotted. At the end of the class, stopped the students who were still working on their paper. She reiterated that she had told the students to read the instructions. Apparently only a few students had read the instructions since if you read the instructions you could see that they said that all you needed to do was sign your name at the bottom of the last page and you would get an "A" on this quiz. If you listened, you didn't have to do any math problems at all. What she was really testing was how well the students followed instructions. The natural thing is to skip the instructions and jump right into the work. But that was the hard way and in this case it couldn't be done.

The point here in this text is a lot like that. People say that life comes with no instruction manual. People spend their lives trying to figure out what they are supposed to do. God made us. God wrote the instruction manual. The answer is only found in God's Word. Our lives are like that test. The instruction manual tells us that we can skip all the other questions. At the end of your lives you will come to one final question. You will be judged on your answer to this ONE question. "Who is Jesus?" Is He really the Lord? Is He your Lord?

Israel had misunderstood their assignment from God. They thought that their right standing with God was based on their identify as part of ethnic Israel. John the Baptist said that it was repentance that mattered not national identity. John said that "God could make stones into sons of God". There would soon be a new basis for a new covenant people.

Let's look carefully at the Lectionary text for this week.

For Moses writes
The appeal to Moses is a bit removed from our generation since we accept Paul as authoritative now. Paul had to establish his authority from the accepted writings. An appeal to the Moses is an appeal to a respected authority.Most commentators miss the connection in the next few verses to Moses. Their exegesis removes the connection that Paul is making. Certainly for Paul's audience, it is necessary to show a continuity with the teachings of Moses. A prophet is to be accepted or rejected based on that continuity based on Deut 13 and Deut 18. Let's look at how Paul agrees with Moses. Paul has to justify what appeared to be a departure from Moses. Paul has to show that this faith principle comes from Moses himself. Paul shows the Jews who cling to the law that the law itself is against national identity as the of securing righteousness.

that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law
Could there be real righteousness based on the law? Paul's argument is that there could be not Law given which would result in righteousness. The righteousness from Christ is apart from the Law (Rom 3:21). Israel had pursued righteousness based on observing the law but did not obtain righteousness (Rom 9:31). Finally, Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for all believers (Rom 10:4). Paul says that if righteousness comes through Law, then Christ died needlessly (Gal 2:21). Righteousness never was based on Law keeping (Gal 3:21). Paul's own personal hope was to be found in the righteousness from faith not law (Phi 3:9).

shall live by that righteousness.
The passage where Moses says that you have to live by the Law (Lev 18:5). The passage where it shows that Israel failed to live by the Law (Eze 20:21).

V6 -

But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows:
Paul is contrasting righteousness based on national identity with righteousness based on faith. Following the flow of the previous chapter Moses has gone from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, through Moses, through the Law, through the words of the prophets (Hosea, Isaiah). It is the consistent word of the Old Testament that God chooses a people for Himself.

This passage is taken from Deut 13. The context of Deu 30 is found in Deu 30:1. This is for a people who have returned from exile. A remnant will return out of the nations of the earth from exile. Paul develops this in more detail later in Roman 11. It is a remnant of Israel who get this point. They are taken from all nations. This expands beyond national Israel to the nations. Now, God has chosen a people from among the Jews and the Gentiles. The passage in Deut 30 is a prediction of the formation of the church. Paul's use of Joel 2 later will confirm this is his intent.Their identity is based on the promised Messiah, not on their national ancestry.

"DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, 'WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?'
This is where more than a few commentators start to get muddle headed. This quote is clearly taken from Deu 30:12, which is within the entire context of Deu 30:10-14.

Deu 30:10 if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.
Deu 30:11 "For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.
Deu 30:12 "It is not in heaven, that you should say, ' Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'
Deu 30:13 "Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'
Deu 30:14 "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.

This passage is very much contrary to how we as Protestants normally understand the Old Testament Law. We have learned from Luther and other that the purpose of the Law was to show us that the Law cannot be followed. Yet, this passage shows us God saying that it can be followed. That following it is not too hard for us. We don't need to go into Heaven to get the answer, it is in the book. Yet, Paul has demonstrated that the Law showed us sin. We are all convicted as lawbreakers by the Law. There has to be a solution to this problem.

The answer is that the only way to follow the Law is by the Spirit of God. At first glance, the "commandment (singular)" in Deu 30:11 seems to be to obey the entire set of commandments (plural). But the commandment here in Moses is faith. The call here is to obey God's voice (His Spirit) from the heart (Deu 30:2 and Deu 30:10). God will circumcise their hearts and the hearts of their children (Deu 30:6). The definitive identification is that Paul refers to this earlier in Romans as the New Covenant.

Rom 2:29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.

V7 -
Quotation here is from Deu_30:13. The abyss is often represented as at the bottom of the sea. In Moses' time, the sea represented that which was beyond reach. Paul translates this for his own time as the abyss. is no need to go to beyond the ends of the earth for the strength to obey the covenant. All that was needed was to turn to the one who had done both of these things. Christ had gone down from Heaven in the incarnation. Christ had risen from the deep in the resurrection. To have faith in Christ is to do the necessary work of God.

V8 -
But what does it say?
Speaking anachronisitically, Paul, fits well into the Covenant Church when he asks the question, "Where is it written?" Even the Apostle Paul tests his own teachings with Scripture. How much more us who teach here and now should do the same!

"THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"
· Quote of Deu_30:14. Again most commentators are muddle headed on this reference. They nearly all miss the connection. Paul saying that Moses already understood and was saying this same thing in Deut as he is saying here. That is why he quotes Moses to a people who know the Law (Rom 7:1).

that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
The word of faith in Jesus. The gospel message concerning faith (objective genitive). Only used here in the Greek. In contrast to the law. This is misused by so-call word of faith preachers. The Word of Faith is defined in the next verse. It is salvation by belief and confession of the Lord Jesus Christ. "We are preaching". Not just Paul was preaching this word, but others known to Rome were their preachers.

that if you confess with your mouth
Jesus said the same thing (Mat_10:32, Luk_12:8). Compare the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Act_8:37. To openly confess Christ in those days of persecution was a trial of faith of the severest kind. Can a secret faith save? Note distinctly that there is no promise here to a concealed faith. There are no secret Christians. A Christian is one who publicly confesses their faith. This is more than church attendance There are always people at church who have never taken that step of faith to publicly confess Jesus as their Lord.

Jesus as Lord,
· Jesus is Lord (Rom_14:9). The Holy Spirit helps us confess Jesus as Lord (1Co_12:3). Every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord ( Phi_2:11). Lord goes beyond simply master here to deity. This is how a first century person would have heard it. No Jew would do this who had not really trusted Christ, for Kurios in the lxx is used of God. Gentile would do it who had not ceased worshipping the emperor as Kurios.

and believe in your heart
It is not the national descent that matter with God. It is the state of your heart that matters with God.

that God raised Him from the dead,
The Father raised Jesus from the dead (Rom_4:24, Act_2:24). To deny that Jesus rose from the dead is to deny the most crucial act of God. It is less serious to deny that God is the Creator of the universe than to deny that He raised Jesus. We are justified by this raising. This is the stumbling stone that the Jews tripped over in not believing in Jesus

you will be saved;
· There is a grace here. This is not based on our actions which will always fall short. This is based on the actions of Jesus which have already been accomplished. He has already gone into the tomb. He has already ascended into Heaven. He now sits at the right hand of the Majesty.

v10 - heart and mouth together

for with the heart a person believes
Belief is not just intellectual assent. Belief is shown as exhibiting a trusting response to God. As a person matures it will develop intellectually into reasons to believe. But even then belief is still not just mental assent.

resulting in righteousness
In most modern religious systems righteousness is something that a person does.
IN the Jewish religion that Paul was once a part of, their identity was based on Moses. · Christianity is unique among the world religions. Our righteousness is not based on something we do. Our righteousness is based on the One we trust in. He was righteous and we are blessed with His righteousness if we believe in Him.

and with the mouth he confesses
Here is the rub. There are no secret Christians. A Christian confesses his belief before others. This is the evidence of the internal faith. For us, this confession is ultimately made in baptism. The Covenant church honors this in two ways. If a person has never been baptized, we baptize that person. If a person was already baptized and had an significant lapse, then we will not re-baptize, but that person can recommit themselves to that original baptismal commitment by water.

We also provide a public place for a person to confess. We will do that this morning. This will take the form of an invitation to come forward. You don't have to say anything, unless you want to say something. All you will need to do is come forward and stand with me. By doing that you will be saying that you want to let others know that you are a follower of Christ. This is something that anyone who is a Christian has done at some point in their life.

v12 - Jesus is the foundation stone

For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."
Paul has already quoted the stumbling stone passage before in (Rom_9:33). Crucial reference to the stone again (Isa_28:16).

Isa 28:16 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD,
"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone,
A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.
He who believes in it will not be disturbed.

This foundation is also a stumbling stone. What is a stumbling stone exactly? Did you ever trip on your way into a building? Perhaps the foundation of the structure is higher than the surrounding area.The foundation holds up the building. But the foundation can also trip you up if you don't see it. Jesus is such a foundation. He holds up the building. But some people trip over Jesus. They think that they can be all right with God without faith in Jesus. It does not work that way, since Jesus is the foundation. Faith in Jesus is the only source of righteousness. Not our own actions. We are helpless in that regard. If you don't yet know that, I pray that you will come to see it.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek
· This is understood by many as a statement of justice although this is not the primary intention. See parallel text in Gal_3:28.

Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The ordinary categories by which we view each other are removed in Christ. We may still be in those categories externally. Internally we are all children of God if we are in Christ. This point of justice was the subject of the first church argument. Issue was the administration to the Gentile widows of financial support. There was a need to support widows in the church. The state did not provide a welfare system for widows. The NT welfare system was from the church. This is a good thing since it had a basis of discrimination. Lower taxes overall since the government is not doing all of these things. The Gentile widows did not receive an equal distribution - the Jews were favored. Paul has said the same thing earlier in (Rom_3:22, Rom_3:29). Most of what Paul writes is based on his own experience in sharing his faith with the Jews and Gentiles. This part is based on dialogs with Jews.

Paul declares that it is for Greek (Gentile), as well as Jew

for the same Lord is Lord of all
There is not one Lord of the Jews and another of the Gentiles. Jesus is Lord of both Jew and Gentile (Act_10:36).

abounding in riches for all who call on Him;
If a Jew can justify a Greek certainly the Jew justifies the Jews as well. Riches (Eph_3:8).

for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."
The justification is taken from the Bible for Paul's position. "whoever" includes all people, Jew and Gentile. Paul quotes both Moses and the Prophets on the need to follow the Christ. From (Joe_2:32).

Joe 2:32 "And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Will be delivered;
For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
There will be those who escape,
As the LORD has said,
Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.

This passage was quoted at Pentecost (Act_2:21). It was historically fulfilled by the gathering together at Pentecost. Paul's point is to point to the word "Whoever". This promise of Joel, since it says "whosoever," is not limited to the Jewish race. The promise goes out to the Gentiles. The promise goes through time to us. Anyone now who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.The call is open to all. Men, women, boys, girls

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?
And how will they hear without a preacher?
How will they preach unless they are sent?
"HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!"
The rest of this section is on the need for a preacher to bring the good news. Answering the question if the word is in our hearts then why are you preaching, preacher? The simple answer is that you have to hear it to believe it.

What the Jews missed was that our righteousness is based on faith in the final promise of God found in Christ. How does this map into our situation? We don't make the mistake of Israel, do we? What mistake might we make? Surely we don't think that we are automatically saved because we are Americans? Or that we have automatic entrance into God's kingdom based on church attendance?Or that we are saved if our parents were Christians? All of these are false hopes. It is only faith in Jesus ourselves that saves.

Invitation to make public confession
If you have never made a public confession of your faith. I would like to invite you to come forward (or post to this BLOG if you are on-line). If you have already made a public confession of Jesus you can remain in your seat. I am assuming that you have asked Jesus into your heart. If you have not already asked him in, we can pray for that as well.

If you know that you need a Savior and want to confess Jesus, come forward. I won't embarrass you. All of us have made confession of our faith in Jesus by coming before others. This is not joining a church. This is telling people that you believe in Jesus. Today is the day, now is the time to confess Jesus before men. If you confess Jesus before men, He will confess you before the Father. Angels rejoice over one person who confesses Jesus.

Amen!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Old Testament quotations in Rom 10:6-8

The Old Testament quotations in Romans 10:6-8 are much tougher to make sense of. The text is:
Rom 10:6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: "DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, 'WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?' (that is, to bring Christ down),
Rom 10:7 or 'WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)."
Rom 10:8 But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
These are quotation from Deut.:
Deu 30:10 if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.
Deu 30:11 "For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.
Deu 30:12 "It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'
Deu 30:13 "Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'
Deu 30:14 "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.
The first issue here seems to be finding the connection between what Moses wrote and what Paul wrote. Rom 10:6 is a quote of Deut 30:12 with Paul adding the phrase "(that is, to bring Christ down)". There seems to be nothing in Deut to indicate that Christ was any part of this commandment. This seems to also be the same issue with the next part.

The commandment that Moses is giving is to observe all the Law. The spirit of what Moses is saying is that a person has to turn to God with all their heart and soul. The commandment is not out of reach but was given to them. It was incarnated in the Law. The commandment is not in heaven, but it right before them. This does reflect the idea of the mission of the prophet. The prophet took the words of God and made the people listen to God. This is the same notion as in the next verse which it also contains the phrase "and make us hear it". It doesn't take a trip into Heaven or across the sea to get the answer. The answer is right there in the commandment.

Paul's quotation of Deut 30:13 seems to be problematic as well. The point there is about "across the sea" and yet Paul's quotation is about "the abyss". This may be resolved by examining the Septuagint.

What does match well is the sense of the passage that follows in both the Deut and Romans texts. Paul is laying before them an option of either following or rejecting Christ. That is exactly what Deut 30:15-20 does as well.
Deu 30:15 "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;
Deu 30:16 in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.
Deu 30:17 "But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them,
Deu 30:18 I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it.
Deu 30:19 "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants,
Deu 30:20 by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."
The key issue here seems to be that of a choice. The way of God is to follow Jesus Christ and live. The alternative is death. In the Old Testament the choice was physical life and safety or death and destruction. In the New Testament the choice is between eternal life and death.

Any thoughts in what Paul is doing here are appreciated. This is an obscure point to figure out.

Old Testament quotation in Rom 10:5

Rom 10:5-15 has a number of interesting quotes of the Old Testament.

I am struggling to figure out exactly what Paul intends with these quotes.

The first quote is an indirect quote Moses from Levitcus. Paul wrote:
Rom 10:5 For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.
This is a quote of Lev 18:5:
Lev 18:5 'So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.
The fact of the matter was that Israel had failed to live up to the statutes and judgements. By the time of Ezekiel this was quite plain.
Eze 20:21 "But the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, nor were they careful to observe My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live; they profaned My sabbaths. So I resolved to pour out My wrath on them, to accomplish My anger against them in the wilderness.
This quotation seems pretty straightforward. It does seem also to match the sense in which Moses wrote it. If a person lives by the statutes and judgements they will live. Was the mistake that the Jews made to assume that live meant be deemed righteous? Moses does not make that statement there.

Romans 10:5-15 Lectionary text for 8-7-2005

For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.
But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows:

"DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, 'WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?'

(that is, to bring Christ down),

or

'WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?'

(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)."
But what does it say?

"THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"

--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
For the Scripture says,

"WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for

"WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?
And how will they hear without a preacher?
How will they preach unless they are sent?
Just as it is written,

"HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!"